UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The development of professional theatre in Vancouver Guildford, Peter Frederick


The thesis examines how professional theatre emerged in Vancouver, from Its founding year, 1886, to 19 78. The topic was chosen because the author observed in 1978 that much of the local professional theatre seemed to have developed quickly in a short period from 1972 to 1977. The study undertook to analyse how such a rapid growth of the theatre community had occurred. Canadian theatre history is still largely unwritten. Therefore, research involved the investigation of primary sources including personal interviews, newspaper reviews, commentaries and theatre programmes. Compiling data first involved constructing the histories of each professional theatre company and second, forming a composite picture of an emerging community. Phases and patterns of development became apparent and were used to structure chapter organization. The "Introduction and Overview" capsulates the development of professional theatre in Vancouver. It highlights the key factors which made possible the current plethora of professional activity. Chapters One to Three discuss theatre growth from 1886 to 1970 and outline those significant contributions which helped lay the foundation from which Vancouver's professional community has grown. Such developments included the professional entertainment from 1890 to 1930; the beginning of the UBC Players Club and the Vancouver Little Theatre Association; the UBC Summer School of Theatre; Theatre Under the Stars; the eventual revival of local professional theatre beginning in 1950; the building of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre; the Vancouver International Festival; the founding of the Playhouse Theatre Company; and finally, the roots of "alternate” theatre". Chapters Four to Eight relate in much greater detail the continuous expansion of the professional theatre community from 1970 to 1978. Through narrative and commentary, the formation and continuation of each professional company is discussed in the context of the growing community. The role of government subsidy was particularly important in making growth possible, and is an inseparable part of the story of theatre in Vancouver in the 1970's. The thesis also includes appendices which a) give an approximation of revenues and expenditures for professional companies each season; b) provide the production histories from 1970 to 1978 for the professional companies discussed; and c) list alphabetically all plays professionally produced from 1970 to 1978. The research and the resulting compilation of the thesis demonstrate that Vancouver's development as a city, both in size and sophistication, has made possible the existence of a healthy professional theatre community. The contribution of federal government grants in the 1970's was certainly necessary to encourage growth. However, the growth of the community took more than the availability of public monies; it also required the talents and personal drive of countless Vancouverites who were devoted to the cultural well-being of the city and eager to create professional outlets for themselves.

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